Frost/Nixon depicts the thoughtfulness and grace of . . . Richard Nixon? | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Frost/Nixon depicts the thoughtfulness and grace of . . . Richard Nixon?

Oh, the good old days when a former president admitted to criminal complicity on prime-time television!


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Peter Morgan's dramatization of the televised 1977 interviews between the lightweight British talk show host and the disgraced former American president gets a deft and timely revival under Scott Weinstein's direction. There's nary a dull moment as Nixon and Frost prepare to spar in front of the cameras. Jeffrey D. Kmiec's set manages to make Redtwist's tiny stage work as a TV studio and a half dozen other locales through clever use of doorways and video elements. The worn acoustic foam panels covering the walls of this tiny storefront theater underscore a key theme of this play: which information is kept in and which is kept out and by whom.

While Brian Perry bears little physical resemblance to Nixon, he nails the timbre and cadence of the man's voice, so by the middle of the show he inhabits him almost completely. Brandon Wardell's extensive use of shadows in his lighting design heightens Perry's transformation. The rest of the cast is top-notch as well, with Adam Bitterman as both Swifty Lazar and Mike Wallace a particular standout.

It would be difficult to imagine the current resident of the White House acting with a fraction of the thoughtfulness and grace of Nixon—one of the greatest villains in U.S. history. But the seeds sown during Watergate cover us like kudzu now, so the sight of a former president admitting criminal complicity on prime-time television is almost worthy of nostalgia at this point. We can only hope that history can repeat itself one more time.   v

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